Updated: May 27, 2018
After a brief three hour administration stop in Paris, we headed south towards Bordeaux as soon as we could. If you haven't spent much time in Paris, it's worth three to four days, however as we had lived there for almost two years, and were yearning for the beach and coastline, we decided our time would be better spent in a rural part of France we had never been before.
Whilst heading out of Paris as early as 2pm to avoid the insane traffic, it was still worse than usual. This turned out to be due to Monday being one of France's many public holidays.
TIP: The French have a lot of public holidays, and the dates can change quite a bit each year. For example, Whit Monday is usually in June, but in 2018 takes place on May 21. So it's always worth checking to avoid any surprise closures or busy periods.
Furthermore en route we had noticed a few drops of oil, and on further inspection and consultation with friends via sending a few photos, this appears to be coming out of the right front CV joint. Unfamiliar with these early 1990's front-wheel drive VW's, we
decided it was critical to get this to a mechanic as soon as possible.
Therefore as we needed to stay somewhere southwest of Paris, we picked a campground called Camping Olivet, about 1.5hours outside Paris with a rating of 4.5/5 on Google, and couldn't have been more happy with our choice.
An amazing place directly on the river Loiret, which feeds into the Loire, and whilst at €24 per night slightly on the higher side of our daily budget, it's facilities are excellent and includes free hot showers. The owners were very friendly, and helped us out with power extension cables, tools, and even booking a mechanic for Gary to have his CV joints looked at. Due to the public holiday, we would have to wait a few days for his hip replacement. Thankfully due to our solid research on the campground, this was not an issue at all, and afforded us time to finally relax, and explore what turned out to be an equally beautiful and historically rich area.
New Orléans in Louisiana, USA, is named after the city.
During our stay at Camping Olivet, we recognised the twang of an Aussie couple pull up on their bikes and setup for the night. Australians and Kiwis neighbours once again, except this time instead of the Tasman Sea, only a few meters between us. After a few pints of the local craft beer (on tap at the campground), we learnt Paul and Robin were doing the famous La Loire à Vélo bike route in France, and then en route to Budapest. We wish them all the best on their adventure - and hope they find Wilson ;)
This helped explain why the Orléans area was so bike friendly, with lanes and trails all over the place (view maps of the bike lanes here). Therefore if you are in this part of the world and have bikes with you, make good use of them. If you don't, most places (including Camping Olivet) have them for hire. The purchase of two bikes was completely justified for getting around this area alone, and here are just a few of our adventures in Orleans and Olivet.
Joan of Arc - typical of the way we travel without really planning much, we always seem to end up in a famous area (which I guess is common for anywhere in Europe). Joan of Arc famously saved the Orleans from English siege in 1429. The south bank of the city contains the"châtelet des Tourelles", which protected access to the main bridge, and on the 8th May 1429 was the site of the battle in which allowed Joan to enter and end the siege of the Plantagenets in the Hungred Years War (thanks Wikipedia). Following this, the city has forever honoured Joan (and fair enough). Check out the Cathédrale Sainte-Croix d'Orléans, Hôtel Groslot, Place du Martroi, and essentially the whole area as you will see Joan referenced on almost every statue, building and park.
Popup Burger Bar on the River - only 5km into our first bike ride into Orleans, we found an outstanding popup bar on the famous river Loire called Le Boui Boui (open March to September). As the sun was beaming we had a nice golden pint of Grimbergen Blonde (Belgian beers are much better than the French) and following watching several excellent burgers proceed past us from the kitchen, shared a burger between us. Slightly above budget (€23 for one burger to share and two 400ml beers), but given the intense first three days spent setting up the van, it was time for a well-earned treat. TIP: When you order a steak or burger in France, you have five options for how your meat is cooked. 1) "Bleu" is one minute each side on a very hot grill. 2) "Saignant", which means bloody, is cooked a bit longer, bit still very rare. (3) "À point" is rare by USA or UK standards. (4) "Bien cuit" which means "well cooked" and still has some pinkness. (5) "Très bien cuit" is essentially well done by USA or UK standards.
La Fontaine & Loiret - thanks to the recommendations of some fellow campers, and the camp ground owners, we headed along the Loiret river in Olivet just up from the campground. What a simply beautiful and unmissable bike ride, run or walk. Do not miss this. Checkout the riverside route we loved here (also see video further up post).
Canoeing - only 10 meters from our van were some canoes. So of coarse we had to take them for a spin along the river. The camp ground hires these out for €7 per double birth canoe for 2hours, which is enough to head along the river and do a very similar route to what we did on the bikes (albeit well worth doing both).
City events - there was plenty going on in the old town whilst we wandered around Orleans. At one point while simply looking for a bathroom, we ended up at an eco-friendly music festival with craft beer, right in the middle of the city and looking directly at the Cathedral. Exceptional.
Overall a great little town - one which we didn't plan to stay more than a night in, but ended up loving. A good lesson at the beginning of our journey - to take each day as it comes, not to rush, and to explore what's in front of us.
Next we head a few hours southwest towards Bordeaux - hopefully on Friday or Saturday.
Bidi & Dan